[quote]Then it hit me. I had never heard an actual British person speak.[/quote]
What is it about accents that spark our fascination? Is it the familiarity with a hint of foriegn culture? Is it the knowledge of someone’s geography and past within the first moments of a greeting? Or is it the hint that there is a difference in a place where many are similar?
I can’t quite answer these questions, but I can say that accents fascinate me. Since I was little, I’ve loved accents and have always wanted to be able to imitate them. Besides the fact that I do a pretty good Sarah Palin, “I can see Russia from my house” bit, I considered myself mediocre at accents until I learned I had one myself.
I did not know I had an accent until I arrived at Elon last year. I knew I probably sounded a little different to people from New England or the South, but I assumed they were the ones with accents, not me. As it turns out, I have just as much of an accent as everyone else. My hallmates loved to poke fun at the way I said I was from “Chi-CAH-go” or the way I said “baaag” and “baaad.” As much as I wanted to deny that I had an accent, I could sometimes see how my pronunciations were different from theirs.
So, a few weeks ago, while watching the Olympics with my mother, I saw an NBC reporter interviewing bronze-medalist Tom Daley, a British diver As soon as he opened his mouth, I giggled. When my mom asked why I was laughing, I replied, “He’s…he’s just so British.” His accent—so raw, so real, so legitimately British—completely caught me offguard.
Then it hit me. I had never heard an actual British person speak.
And yet, in less than a month, I’d be chatting with people who would think I was the one with a funny American accent. I realized I would be branded ‘that American girl’ in London, and my accent would make me stick out like a sore thumb. Everything I do would be scrutinized through a lens: an American in London.
I was having a moment.
I took a deep breath and realized I was probably blowing things out of proportion. All an accent really does is show people a little bit about your past and where you come from. Sure, it might make me more prone to being stereotyped, but I’m sure I won’t prove any negative stereotypes true as long as I’m still the sociable, sensible daughter my parents raised me to be. My accent won’t define me; my actions will.
So now, as I sit here avoiding packing my luggage before I depart, I know I’ll be taking a lot more with me than a couple suitcases full of sweaters and jeans. I’ll be bringing my values, culture and personality to London, accent included. So what if my accent sounds funny to anyone from London? It’s just a friendly reminder that I’m a loud, proud Chi-CAH-go girl, and I will never forget where I come from because that’s just part of what makes me who I am.